Day 3 of “Operation Grand Canyon or Bust”

March 22nd, 2008

Today was beautiful as we woke up in Albuquerque, NM. After a decent continental breakfast, we set off for Interstate 40. We stopped off to fill up the car (at $3.13/gal.) and were treated to an amazing sight. There were approximately 20-30 hot air balloons taking off in the Albuquerque morning. Apparently, the still, cool weather in Albuquerque makes it a perfect launching spot for hot air balloons. The sky was filled with color and strips from the balloons. They were awesome to see.

We planned on driving to the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks. On I-40, we saw the gorgeous adobe style buildings that the southwest is famous for. Their smooth walls and earth tone materials keep the buildings cooler in the summer months. They also seem to blend in well with the landscape and enhance instead of competing with it.

On I-40, I noticed quite a bit of roadkill. Sadly, this is expected when folks are driving 75-90 miles an hour. Fortunately, the southwest has nature’s trashmen (i.e. ravens & vultures). Everything is recycled in nature. Nothing goes to waste.

Just outside of Grants, NM, there was a change in the red rock landscape. Large clumps of black volcanic rocks dotted the serene land. The Bandera Volcano erupted through this area and left behind black, igneous rock. We HAD to pull over and grab a small volcanic rock to share later at Scouts.

Our iPod was motivating us over the rolling hills with tunes from: Van Morrison, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash, Cake, Casey Chambers, and Blues Travelers.

Extremely long trains drove parallel to the highway pulling freight across country. It made me wonder whether freight shipped by train is increasing with the rise of gasoline. By the length of the trains we saw, there is quite a bit of cargo being transported on rails.

We all noticed the abandoned motels litering Route 66 along the highway. Many areas of Route 66 are overgrown and impossible to drive on. Seeing the ghost towns that once thrived because of this historic road made me a bit sad. I wonder what they were like back in their hey day. How I would love to have some of the old signage on those buildings that we passed. I would care for them, even if they have been long forgotten.

Before we got to our first destination, we passed over the Continental Divide at 7,700+ feet above sea level. As we were in the Navajo Nation, my husband wanted to see what radio stations we could get. On AM660, we got a Navajo station. It was very interesting to listen to regular radio announcements in english, and then hear the same announcements in Navajo. What a language! You would hear a word of english every now and then (like trailer, registration, etc.) because they didn’t have that word in their language. Really interesting.

Adobe in Painted Desert

We finally arrived at the Painted Desert/Petrofied Forest National Parks. The Painted Desert wasn’t exactly what I pictured. Although beautiful with a palette of pale striped hills, it was small. Much smaller than one thinks of when you hear Painted Desert. You think vast. It didn’t quite fit my expectations. My husband took some great adobe pictures at the Painted Desert Inn (no longer a hotel, but a museum).

After the Painted Desert, we drove the 15 miles to the Petrified Forest. It was a bit bizarre to see sandy, rolling hills with fallen trees all over. Those fallen trees have long since turned into rocks. The petrified wood was beautiful to see. Some logs were the size of a couch! The logs were in terra cotta, milky quartz, browns, and even purples. The park rangers made it extremely apparent that you were NOT ALLOWED to take anything away from the park. If you were to pick up a petrified rock and try to leave the park, you were fined a minimum of $375. Not a good idea to start rock collected at a national park. We found a store outside of the park and our son bought a rock there. No fines for us, thanks.

Petrified Trees

After our two stops, we made our way to Flagstaff, AZ. Arizona really is a beautiful state. There is so much red rock everywhere. As we were driving towards higher elevations, we started to see lots of pine trees and SNOW! We got to our hotel and dropped off all of our camping gear (I swear it looks like we are opening a sporting goods store or something).

My husband offered to take me to Sedona, AZ so I could look around the art/jewelry shops. The drive through Oak Creek Canyon was gorgeous. It was filled with winding turns lined with magestic pine trees. The bubbly creek made a lovely sound as we drove by. When we got 2 miles away from the outskirts of Sedona, traffic STOPPED. We soon realized that the Easter holiday had brought many tourists to Sedona and two miles of back up was what we had in store for us. After a quick minute of deliberation, we turned around and headed back to Flagstaff.

As our stomachs thought it was 8pm (Texas time), we needed to find dinner, and fast. We found a delightful Thai food restaurant named Swaddee . It was just what we needed after a long, eventful day.

Tomorrow is filled with getting to Grand Canyon Village and preparing for our descent into the canyon on Monday. We are all nervous about the trek down. We don’t know what to expect and pray that we are prepared. We won’t really know until we get there and get going. One thing is for sure, it is a hiking trip of a lifetime. Write to you tomorrow!

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